Voices from the border and beyond
From January 23 to February 1, 2015, the Voices from the Border and Beyond seminar, organized by the Presbyterian Mission Agency, traveled the border, inviting participants to listen to the often-unheard voices of the women and children—from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—who make the terrifying and risky trek north for refuge in the U.S. Seminar participants learned of decades of poverty, failed government policies, broken families, lack of protection for children, and violence plaguing Central America’s northern triangle. The seminar included conversations with Presbyterian Border Region Outreach as well as ecumenical partners in Guatemala and El Salvador
—Desert pathways to a future uncertain
Complex issues inspire refugees’ journeys—and reactions to them.
—Two women, two borders, one cause
Two women witness the plight of thousands trying to escape poverty and violence...
—Dreams and dangers
For many migrants, the lure of a better life means risking countless perils
—Hope — but then horror
For some seeking a better life, the path to America can lead to unspeakable terror and suffering
—The Hidden Flame
Hunger Program’s Joining Hands empowers women, small-scale farmers in El Salvador
Voices from the Border and Beyond – understanding the root causes of migration—Amanda Craft blog
Unfinished Houses: Building the kingdom on God’s time
…service-learning trips for students … the inspiration for the nonprofit Education Across Borders
For the Caribbean, a United Front Is Key to Weathering Climate Change—ALC (Latin Americ and Caribbean Communication Agency)
June 2014 Latin American Presbyterians celebrate and contextualize globalization pronouncement
AIPRAL gathering marks 10th anniversary of WARC’s Accra Confession. In their declaration the churches covenanted to recuperate a proper spirituality that will challenge a culture of consumerism and individualism
Chikungunya in the Caribbean
Local transmission of chikungunya is being reported in Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti and Puerto Rico, among other countries/islands in the Caribbean—CDC
May 2014 Latin America’s LGBTI movement celebrates triumphs, sets new goals
Latin America is the most active region in the world when it comes to the defense of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. Many credit the maturity and intelligent strategies that the LGBTI movement has come up with in a number of the region’s 33 countries, where the level of respect for sexual orientation and gender identity still varies a great deal.—Latin America and Caribbean Communication Agency
Caribbean religious leaders inspire IMF Sunday schools
Last Fall I witnessed the Grenada Council of Churches insert themselves into negotiations between their government andv the International Monetary Fund (IMF) around the island’s debt restructuring and presumed austerity policies. …When I recently returned to the Spice Isle, I was awed by what I saw–the religious experiment in Grenada was spreading like wild fire to other Caribbean countries.—Eric LeCompte, Caribban 360
February 2014 A Pastoral Letter from the Central Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Venezuela
TO OUR SISTERS AND BROTHERS IN THE LAND OF GRACE
True peace will never be achieved by the moral annihilation of anyone who defies our perception of what ought to be. This would only be a kind of “pax romana.” A peace of victors and vanquished. A false peace, within which will hide a rotting gangrene, eating away at society as a whole. As a church we seek a true and lasting peace. A peace in which we all win. Peace which is the fruit of justice, of reflection, of honest consensus and without concealed weapons. Therefore, we call on our fellow citizens to avoid sinking into an absurd fratricidal confrontation that benefits no one.
Read Sarah Henken's blog, "Praying with Venezuela"
In an open letter to their compatriots, delegates to Central Presbytery's regularly scheduled assembly drafted a letter that calls on all sides to step up to their unique responsibilities and work for a constructive, peaceful outcome that serves the common good.
Caribbean Walks the Talk on Clean Energy Policy
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jan 28 2014 (IPS)– Despite having an abundance of wind and sunshine, Caribbean countries have found that going green is requiring significant shifts in policy, and most importantly, significant financing. But despite these challenges, they are not daunted. Barbados, for instance, which spends an estimated 400 million dollars annually on fossil fuel imports, has announced plans for a wind, gas and solar energy programme that requires almost one billion dollars in investments. Read more.
August 2013 Dennis Smith and his journey of faith are featured in two articles in the National Catholic Reporter:
"Missioner came of age in Guatemala"
"In confronting a violent past, Guatemalans find miracles in present"
El Salvador mining ban could establish a vital water security precedent
With their water supply threatened, Salvadorans are hitting back at mining companies
Human trafficking is focus of church consultation in Cuba
The Caribbean situation serves as a case study for the global phenomenon
Shifts in balance of power create uneasy relations in Latin America—Catholic News Service
CENTRAL AMERICA / MEXICO / CARIBBEAN
The closest international partners of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) live in the Central American, Mexican and Caribbean region. This gives Presbyterians the opportunity to get to know Christian brothers and sisters from the countries represented in the region because of the ease of travel and communication. As Presbyterians get to know these Christians they find that the economic situation of many is fragile. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) relates to a number of Christian institutions and churches in a manner that engenders trust and sharing.
There are three historical Presbyterian relationships in the countries of Mexico, Guatemala and Cuba. The relationships that once were mission body to mission church have moved to ones of sister churches in partnership.
Scottish Presbyterians founded the Latin American Biblical University (UBL) in San José, Costa Rica. It began as a women’s Bible school but today is a well-respected institution of theological training. Three PC(USA) mission personnel are working with the seminary at this time. The UBL receives students from all over Latin America. Dr. Elsa Tamez, former rector of the institution, has made an important contribution to theological thought throughout the world. The Fraternity of Evangelical Churches (FIEC) has had a meaningful presbytery partnership with the Presbytery of Lake Huron for many years. The FIEC is a member of the Association of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches of Latin America (AIPRAL).
For many years the PC(USA) has been in partnership with the Moravian Church of Nicaragua. The Moravian Church, historically found on the east coast of Nicaragua where indigenous people of the Miskito, Sumu and Rama tribes lived as well as Garifuno and African Nicaraguans, has extended into many parts of the country. The Presbyterian Church was part of the group of people who assisted the Evangelical Christians of Nicaragua as they banded together to give help to those who were devastated by the huge earthquake of 1972. The Evangelical Council of Churches (CEPAD) grew out of the Evangelical effort. The PC(USA) has been in partnership with CEPAD since. Nine PC(USA) presbytery congregations have partnerships with different in Nicaraguan groups. A close relation with the Evangelical Faculty of Theological Studies (FEET) has developed through the past years. The PC(USA) Office of Theological Education has contributed to several Christian education and theological forums sponsored by the FEET.
In Honduras the Christian Commission for Development (CCD) accompanies and trains the poor of Honduras in agriculture and community development. The CCD is a faith-based development group that also guides pastors and lay people in theological education. Two PC(USA) mission workers are included in the CCD staff, and there is one presbytery partnership with CCD. Another mission couple works with Heifer International. The Theological Community is the seminary branch of CCD. The National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala began a mission work in Honduras that today sees fruit in the independent Presbyterian body in that country — the Presbytery of Honduras. The Presbytery of Tampa Bay relates to this small group of Presbyterian Christians.
Two PC(USA) long-term mission workers have related to the El Salvadoran development organization ALFALIT. A Reconciliation and Mission participant worked with the Calvinist Reformed Church of El Salvador. The El Salvadoran people have experienced physical and emotional pain due to the January and February earthquakes of 2001. Both the Reformed Church and ALFALIT have accompanied them during these difficult times and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been attentive to the situation.
The close relationship with the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala is seen through the six presbytery partnerships with eight presbyteries in the Guatemalan church. There are seven mission workers serving with the Guatemalan Presbyterians. The Christian Service Office, Diaconia, has been instrumental in helping Guatemalans recover from the ravages of Hurricane Mitch. The Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central American (CEDEPCA) has its central office in Guatemala. Two PC(USA) presbyteries are in partnership with CEDEPCA. PC(USA) mission workers are involved in communications and travel/reflection groups that help Presbyterians from the United States meet Guatemalan Christians and become acquainted with Guatemalan realities.
Mexico is a large country, and the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (NPCM) is one of the largest historical churches in the country with approximately 1 million members. Thirteen PC(USA) mission workers are involved in the Mexican/U.S. Border Ministries and two mission workers are at the San Pablo Seminary in Merida, Mexico. There are six presbytery partnerships with presbyteries in Mexico and two presbytery partnerships with Border Ministries. The three priorities of the NPCM are evangelism, education and health. The Mexico City Presbyterian Seminary Choir is known for its quality and creativeness.
The Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba became an independent body in 1967 after having been a part of the Synod of New Jersey for many years. There are currently seven presbytery partnerships and upwards of 90 congregational partnerships with this small, but dynamic, group of Cuban Christians. Living Waters for the World is an active presence with the Cuban churches. Cuban Presbyterians are theological leaders in their own country and in world ecclesiastical bodies. Each year over 500 Presbyterians from the United States visit with these dedicated Christians. There is one PC(USA) mission co-worker for Cuba at this time, Jo Ella Holman, who serves as the regional liaison for the Caribbean.
Cooperation in mission between the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti and the PC(USA) began in the mid-1970s with the revival of a health clinic in Leogane, about 30 kilometers west of Port-au-Prince. Today this institution is a three-story hospital that was rebuilt after the 2010 earthquake through Medical Benevolence Foundation, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and World Mission collaboration with the Episcopal Diocese. Also the PC(USA) has partnered with the Episcopal Diocese in the only four-year baccalaureate program in Haiti: la Faculté des Sciences Infirmières. Several PC(USA) congregations also partner with Episcopalian primary, secondary and agricultural schools. The PC(USA), through our Presbyterian Hunger Program, works closely with two networks of farmers’ organizations. There are currently three PC(USA) mission co-workers serving in Haiti, working in agricultural development (Mark Hare), hunger and poverty issues (Cindy Corell) and partnership facilitation (Suzette Goss-Geffrard). Hundreds of PC(USA) members and congregations are engaged in ministries in Haiti each year.
In the Dominican Republic in 1922 U.S. Presbyterians, Methodists and members of the United Brethren Church joined to form a united church called the Iglesia Evangélica Dominicana (IED). Later two Moravian congregations joined this denomination. The Dominican church is active and involved in the life of the people in society and in outreach to communities around the country. Women pastors have been a strong part of the Dominican Church’s leadership for many years. Congregations from Shenango Presbytery have worked in partnership with the IED for many years and Whitewater Valley Presbytery is exploring a presbytery partnership. Numerous PC(USA) congregations work with other NGOs and non-profits in the country. Presently the PC(USA) has two mission co-workers cooperating with Dominican church ministries: Jenny Bent serves in community health with the IED and Jo Ella Holman, the Caribbean regional liaison, resides in the DR and collaborates on many projects with the partner church.
As in the Dominican Republic, our partner in Jamaica is a united church comprised of the Presbyterian Church (of Scotland), the Disciples of Christ, and the Congregational Church: the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.. The UCJCI is a dynamic body that works in development with the poor in society and through its numerous schools throughout the country. St. Augustine Presbytery is in mutual mission with a Jamaican ecumenical association and a number of PC(USA) congregational partnerships are active.
Through an organization called the Caribbean North American Council for Mission (CANACOM), the PC(USA) relates to 12 other Presbyterian or Reformed bodies: the Presbyterian Church in Grenada, the Guyana Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church of Guyana, the Guyana Congregational Union, the United Protestant Church of Curaçao, the Presbyterian Church in Trinidad and Tobago, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland in Trinidad and Tobago, and the Reformed Church of Surinam. Also included in CANACOM membership are the United Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba, the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Evangelical Church, and the PC(USA). This multilateral relationship allows large churches and smaller ones to be in mission together, where all are receiving and all are giving in mutual mission. Current priorities of these churches working together are: human trafficking prevention and ministry to victims; gender violence; poverty alleviation and root causes; and church growth and renewal.
The PC(USA) now has partnerships with Presbyterian or Reformed denominations in seven South American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. In addition it supports and works closely with AIPRAL (Association of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches in Latin America), a branch of the World Association of Reformed Churches. Through AIPRAL, the PC(USA) is in contact with churches from Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.
The South American countries are now climbing out of the depths of one of the most profound crises of the 20th century. The “lost decade” of the 1980s was characterized by low or negative economic growth, huge external debt, economic instability and nearly permanent fiscal crisis.
One of the causes of this poor performance is the structure of the regional economy; Latin America has the world’s worst income distribution. That means that the lack of purchasing power of the masses of people inhibits the growth of an internal market for goods produced.
Another cause of the economic distress is the globalization of the world’s economy, which the PC(USA)’s partner churches have identified as the single most difficult obstacle to their people’s development. As a Christian community, the members of the PC(USA) are members of the same body of Christ — “if one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Our partners in South America are asking, “How can we justify the faith affirmation that we are one in Christ if more and more brothers and sisters are suffering and excluded?”
According to the Reformed tradition, the economy is a social framework that is supposed to sustain life in community. And yet the world’s present economic order contributes to dismantling rather than sustaining community. People are not only suffering, they are being systematically excluded from the community.
Christians in Peru have mobilized around the Biblical jubilee during the year 2000 and gathered 1.7 million signatures asking for the forgiveness of foreign debt for the world’s poorest countries. Our two Brazilian partner churches are especially articulate: “We reaffirm the hope that commerce between nations should produce well-being for all people and not only for a few,” states the General Assembly of the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil. “We reaffirm the hope in the construction of an international order that is just and in solidarity, in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Although Venezuela is a world leader in the exportation of crude oil, it will take decades to recover from the effects of the floods of 1999, which totally reshaped the Venezuela coastline for 40 miles, removing whole towns from the face of the earth and killing an estimated 30,000 people.
Perhaps the country most in need of Presbyterians’ prayerful intervention is Colombia, where peace has finally made some progress only to be threatened by military “aid” from the United States. In the present context aid from the United States contributes not to peace but to war. Help from the United States would be welcomed if it were aimed at decreasing the unemployment rate, which stands at more than 20 percent. People of faith would welcome help in building housing for the more than 1 million people displaced by the war. “As a church,” writes Milton Mejia, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, “we believe that if the United States focuses its aid on military equipment and trainers it will only help to deepen and prolong a war of more than 40 years that has not been resolved by [military] means.”
All countries in this area are listed below. Countries with Web pages giving Presbyterian-specific information are highlighted. For other countries, there is currently no PC(USA) involvement in this country or the Web pages have not yet been prepared. The PC(USA) also participates in or relates to work in other countries through ecumenical relationships.
Central America and the Caribbean
Antigua and Barbuda
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Regional liaisons (mission co-workers)
Amanda Craft, regional liaison for Guatemala and Mexico
Sarah Henken, regional liaison for the Andean Region, South America—Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela
Jo Ella Holman, regional liaison for the Caribbean
Tracey King-Ortega, regional liaison for Central America
Suzette Goss-Geffrard, partnership facilitator for Haiti
Dennis Smith, regional liaison for Brazil and the Southern Cone (Argentina, Uruguay, Chile)
CANACOM has pioneered a different form of mission partnership, a roundtable where resources are pooled, according to means